When we think of health benefits and tea, we immediately go to the ever-praised green tea. It’s used by dieters and practically worshipped by dieticians… but what about black tea? It might surprise you to find out that black tea, consumed without fattening milk and sugar, can be very beneficial too.
We take a closer look at the health benefits of black tea to discover how different it is to green tea and whether it’s worth drinking regularly for your health.
Compared to green tea, black tea has more caffeine, more tannins, and different antioxidants. Black tea contains theaflavins that are not present in green tea and lacks the ECGC that’s abundant in green tea. This does make a difference in the health benefits you can gain.
What is Black Tea?
Black tea, green tea, white tea, and even oolong, is all made from the same tea plant. The leaves and buds are picked, by hand or by machine, then processed. It’s this process that turns the leaves and buds into different tea types.
Black tea is picked then withered. By withering the tea leaves, some of the moisture is drawn out and the cell structure is broken down. This makes the following steps more effective in turning the tea leaves dark and the resulting tea liquor rich and bold in flavour.
The leaves and buds and crushed and rolled about, to slightly bruise the leaves. This allows the oxygen in the air to reach the enzymes within the leaves – this is the stage that alters the health benefits of black tea from green tea, as green tea enzymes are completely unoxidized.
Afterward, the leaves and dried and shaped for packaging.
Different Types of Black Tea
There are many different cultivars of black tea from 2 main varieties; Sinensis and assamica. The cultivars, the leaf grades, the areas/altitudes they’re grown in, plus the unique processing techniques, result in different flavors – and also slightly different health benefits! Tippy black tea, made from the buds of the tea plant and top leaves, will have more caffeine. Nitrogen-rich soils also produce tea plants that contain more caffeine, for example.
Despite this, all black teas will have the health benefits described below.
10 Health Benefits of Black Tea
The health benefits of black tea stretch not only from your physical health but also to your mental health. The key components of black tea that you should be aware of are:
- L-theanine and caffeine. These 2 nutrients have an immediate effect on your mental health and stimulate your brain, making you feel both awake and alert, while calm and focused.
- Antioxidants, particularly polyphenols. These naturally occurring molecules bind to free radicals, which in the body can alter, damage and even kill cells. By binding to and deactivating these free radicals, there are numerous health benefits.
1. Prevent Cancer
While there are many many many studies into how tea, in general, can prevent and treat cancer, few studies are conclusive. Nonetheless, there is still some evidence that black tea could prevent certain types of cancer, namely bladder, lung and prostate cancer.
The antioxidants in tea can protect you from UVB (sun) damage and could potentially slow down tumour growth. However, there are also studies that have found that black tea can slightly reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Green tea can prevent more cancer types than black tea, so consider drinking that instead if you’re looking for cancer prevention!
2. Heart Health
Drinking 3 cups of tea per day can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease! Once again, it’s the nutritional antioxidants in black tea that can improve your heart health. They work by binding to those pesky free radicals that are a major contributing factor to atherosclerosis.
The flavonoids and polyphenols, in particular, can actually prevent plaque from forming in your blood vessels – this can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level and maintain your heart health.
While caffeine is not good for heart health overall, consuming a safe level (less than 400mg – 2 or 3 cups is fine) per day is completely fine and won’t counteract the health benefits of the antioxidants.
Black tea can reduce and maintain blood sugar levels – it’s particularly noticeable when you drink a sugary drink followed by a black tea. Studies have shown that the black tea keeps your blood sugar levels noticeably lower than if you’d had the sugary drink without the tea.
Both green tea and black tea can inhibit diabetic cataracts, according to a study conducted on diabetic rats. More evidence is needed to support a link between black tea and reducing the effects (or preventing) diabetes, but for now, we can say that it certainly looks promising! Drinking black tea with sugar is a good way to hydrate your body and avoid the temptation to pick a sugary drink instead.
4. Digestive System
Black tea can do wonders for your digestive system – although drinking it on an empty stomach can cause a little unease due to the tannins. Drink it after a meal or in the afternoon for the health benefits! First, it promotes the healthy bacteria in your gut and helps you to digest your food a little easier while reducing the levels of fats that are absorbed by your body (see weight loss below).
There are also plenty of studies that show how black tea can ease diarrhoea, prevent stomach ulcers, reduce inflammation and soothe irritation in your bowels.
5. Increased Energy
This is a 2 part health benefit, as the increased energy is always accompanied by calmness and focus which we’ll explore below.
The caffeine in black tea, 50mg per 8oz cup, helps you feel awake and alert. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in our brains. This stops adenosine from binding to those receptors and making us feel drowsy. It also keeps the dopamine flowing through the brain for longer rather than being reabsorbed – keeping us happy and awake!
When the caffeine wears off, the energetic feelings subside and often a rush of adenosine binds to the receptors giving us that caffeine crash.
While the caffeine in black tea is concentrated enough for you to feel the energetic effects, it also contains high levels of L-theanine. This amino acid is also present in green tea but you’ll find higher levels of it in black tea.
L-theanine binds to receptors in your brain like caffeine. It binds to glutamate receptors, preventing excitatory stimuli from making your brain distracted and jittery. It also binds to GABA neurotransmitters, helping you feel calm with anti-anxiety effects.
Together with caffeine, these molecules help you keep your new energy focused on the task at hand and prevent the caffeine crash when the effects wear off.
7. Weight Loss
Drinking black tea reduces the absorption of fatty acids. So, drinking black tea before, with or after a meal can prevent your body from absorbing too much fat during digestion. To use black tea for weight loss, you should maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise to shift existing fat. The black tea will help you stay slim, fit and healthy!
The caffeine levels in black tea, which are higher than green tea, boost your energy levels and keeps you active and on your feet – thus helping you to burn off more energy and aid weight loss.
8. Dental Health
Drinking 3 or 4 cups of tea per day can keep your teeth healthy and clean of bacteria! The key is not to drink tea with too much sugar, as that will speed up decay instead.
Besides reducing the risk of decay, black tea also reduces plaque levels. This keeps your teeth healthy and strong… but it’s also linked to heart health. It’s the same plaque on your teeth that can clog arteries and cause heart problems!
Remember to brush your teeth twice daily to reduce the yellow stains that black tea tannins can leave on your teeth (or drink your black tea iced through a straw).
9. Skin Care
Black tea has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This is great for your skin! The anti-inflammatory effects can reduce acne, redness, and puffiness in your skin. The antioxidants bind to free radicals that can deteriorate your skin cells, causing your skin to age and sag. So, black tea can keep your skin firm, elastic and youthful for longer.
Drinking black tea is a good way to absorb these benefits, or you can try black tea extract face masks or using hot black tea to steam and exfoliate your face.
10. Reduce Blood Pressure
Caffeine increases your blood pressure and heart rate – you’ll notice this effect shortly after drinking black tea, especially if you’re drinking a large amount of black tea in one sitting. However, black tea can also reduce your blood pressure significantly if you consume a sensible amount (3 cups, for example) every day. It’s a long term health benefit!
If blood pressure is something you are concerned about or need to reduce for your health, you should make dietary changes first.
Always speak to your doctor about using black tea for health conditions!
Side Effects of Black Tea
The majority of side effects from black tea come from the caffeine content, or from the milk and sugar you add.
Side effects of consuming too much caffeine (400mg plus per day) include:
- Nervousness, anxiety, dizziness, irritability, and trouble sleeping
- Headache, tremors, convulsions, and ringing in the ears
- Irregular heartbeats, diarrhoea, vomiting, and heartburn
You’d need to drink a lot of black tea to consume enough caffeine for these side effects! The caffeine from black tea will be completely out of your system within 24 hours.
The only other side effect from black tea is the tannins staining your teeth.
Is Black Tea Good for You?
Yes, black tea is good for you! Besides rehydrating your body, keeping you alert and awake, plus all the other health benefits we’ve covered, black tea is affordable and many varieties are available. If you don’t like the taste of one particular black tea, you can easily find another to suit your tastes.
One cup of black tea per day is good for you. In fact, a moderate amount (3 cups, for example) is very good for you too. While you might be concerned about the caffeine levels – you really have no reason to worry. The daily recommended intake limit of caffeine is 400mg. You’d need to drink 8 cups in one day just to get near that limit.
The health benefits of black tea far outweigh the side effects, particularly when you drink it without added milk or sweetener. Try a cup today to discover the benefits yourself!